AUKUS ‘of deep importance’ in Albanese-Biden talks

Anthony Albanese is flying to Washington for a four-day official visit to the US.

Anthony Albanese is flying to Washington for a four-day official visit to the US. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has landed in the US ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden, with the AUKUS pact expected to be top of the agenda.

Albanese landed in Maryland on Monday afternoon (AEDT), to be greeted on the tarmac by Australia’s ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd, his wife Therese Rein and the US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy.

The four-day official visit to Washington will be the ninth meeting between the two leaders since Albanese’s election victory in 2022, and comes as Biden tries to rally Western nations to back Israel in its war against Hamas.

“The focus of the world is on the unrest in the Middle East following Hamas’s invasion and atrocities that were committed in Israel, and we will no doubt be talking about those issues,” Albanese said.

“Making sure that the AUKUS arrangements are put in place and talking with Congress and Senate about the legislation that’s required to turn this vision into a practical reality [will also be a priority].”

Rudd said the embassy had been engaged with US politicians to discuss the AUKUS security partnership, which will share US and British technology with Australia.

“There’s been real progress in the passage of the relevant pieces of the AUKUS legislation,” he told ABC TV on Monday morning.

“We need to be patient, but I do see things moving in the right direction and the PM’s engagement on this in the days ahead will be of deep importance.”

Albanese’s visit also comes with the US House of Representatives embroiled in a leadership crisis as the Republican Party remains unable to find a candidate for the speakership. But Rudd said the Australian meetings would continue with Republicans and Democrats.

“I’m always inspired by the level of bipartisan support for what we’re seeking to do with AUKUS, not just in terms of the future of nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines, but also our ambition to create a seamless Australia-US defence science and technology industry,” he said.

“I think this is on track but there’s still some hard roads to be crossed.”

Ahead of his departure, Albanese said he would tell Biden that providing support to the Indo-Pacific region was crucial.

“It’s very important that we remain focused on the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“We will certainly be urging the United States to continue what they have done, which is to step up in the region.”

Albanese pointed to the Pacific Islands Forum, to be held in the Cook Islands next month, which he described as “very important”.

Biden visited Tel Aviv last week, to try to ease mounting tension after Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. Asked if the US could simultaneously manage conflicts in Israel and Ukraine, Biden confidently responded his nation could do both.

At the weekend, Biden spoke with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy, the White House said.

“The leaders reiterated their support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians,” a readout of the talks said.

The leaders had also discussed their own citizens trapped in the Israel-Hamas war, “in particular those wishing to leave Gaza”.

Albanese said his message would be it remained “critical” to continue supporting Ukraine in the face of a drawn-out war with Russia.

Security experts are concerned China may seek to take Taiwan by force, leading to a “catastrophic” war in the Indo-Pacific, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rudd said the US had already “demonstrated its ability to manage these challenges on three fronts at once.” He said the Middle East crisis would be a significant part of Albanese’s discussions with Biden.

“The Middle East is a core part of America’s concerns, it’s a core part of Australia’s concerns,” he said.

– with AAP

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